One of my very favorite things we do at River Campus Libraries is our Career Exploration In Libraries and Mentoring (CEILAM) undergraduate employment program. Each spring semester a cohort of students of diverse backgrounds cocreate and manage projects with library workers from across every portfolio. We do so to introduce students to library work as a career option, and we benefit in both the near and long term. The project results are always inspiring and always enriched by their perspectives- it is a valuable reminder that diversity, equity, and inclusion improve our work.
The program pursues improved racial representation in the profession because it is inherently better than the unbearable whiteness of librarianship™. I think the worst of toxic attitudes I see in libraries regarding DE&I imagine that we are doing some favor for people of color by creating these programs. Any time a person of color helps us decolonize libraries, they are doing an immeasurably valuable service and we should be humble, grateful, and completely supportive. That’s why we pay these students and every year we throw a celebration event. This year I got to give the closing remarks.
Particularly with our student program, a large part of our work goes into creating curriculum to support our (majority white) staff as project managers and mentors, helping our staff develop and cultivate cultural competency and humility. When we first designed the program, one of our major identified risks was that vulnerable students might wind up doing emotional labor on behalf of privileged staff- I’d say this is always the real risk of developing DE&I programs that hinge on such collaborations. It’s worth the risk- but anyone undertaking such planning needs to do the work and try to mitigate harm in programming and design always. It requires attention and resources- if you have questions I am happy to give my perspectives.
Letting the students do library work without bias and from their authentic perspectives is always a joy and a revelation. It’s been extremely gratifying to help cultivate CEILAM for the past three years.
Below is the transcript of my closing remarks at our Spring celebration.
Everyone, as we conclude today’s celebration, it’s an honor to offer you all my enthusiastic congratulations. In the course of these past weeks, which threw so many obstacles to your projects in your way, you persevered and exceeded the expectations of the Career Exploration in Libraries and Mentoring program. It’s been a pleasure serving as chair of the program committee- my compliments go out to my colleagues on the committee, our incredible team of library project managers. CEILAM is a signature River Campus Libraries program, and it is always a highlight of our year.
To our incredible student participants- your creativity, resilience, and community focus all exemplify what is best about library work. Your perspectives have enriched these projects and provided so much value to our initiatives- we cannot thank you enough.
It’s bittersweet to conclude the program now- I will miss our Friday meetings and learning important information like which breakfast foods you prefer. I wanted to remind you that you’ll be receiving certificates of completion and a small token of our appreciation after this event- details to follow.
But even though this year’s cohort is coming to a close you are now and forever our valued colleagues and collaborators- the partnerships you formed with your mentors and other library staff will remain even now that your projects are completed. Your impact on our work will be lasting.
By now you know that that is why the libraries are here- we are here to champion university of Rochester students and scholars as they explore, inquire, learn, and create new knowledge. And you created such exciting and cool knowledge too- videos, guides, collections, exhibits, podcasts, and even an OER revolution. You did so much while overcoming incredible and unforeseen challenges navigating our transformed environment. You’ve inspired us all.
You also know I like to talk your ear off about how this program also demonstrates the versatility of library work because I am extremely hopeful that you will pursue librarianship as a career. We will be in touch with you to continue to learn about your progress and to support you whatever path you choose. Watch you inboxes, because this summer we will be hosting a series of informational sessions with library science graduate programs so you can learn more about the different options available.
Regardless of whether you come to work in libraries or not (please don’t break my heart) the key thing I hope you will remember is that the River Campus Libraries will always be there for you. You already have a powerful library network.
But perhaps more excitingly and definitely more practically, there will always be a library there for you wherever you settle, whatever career you pursue. That’s the magic of libraries. When that happens, I hope you’ll feel comfortable as our colleague and a former (and future) library worker, in making sure you take the time to go to that library and meet the folks who work there. I hope you may choose to become a library worker, but regardless of your career path, you’ll always be a library champion. Don’t be a stranger to the next library that is lucky enough to be YOUR next library.
Again, this is farewell, not goodbye. We will be in touch with you again soon and we are so excited about the incredible things you are going to accomplish next, but today I hope you take a little time to reflect on all you have done. It’s a lot- you have so much to be proud of. Thank you again for the contributions you have made to the library, and congratulations again for completing the 2020 program!